Three Straight Answers

With the exception of my teacher, I have in 10 years of practice, gotten exactly three straight answers from taiji teachers. After the storm, I met several teachers around the country. Most didn’t know what they were doing or why. Some had skill, but couldn’t/wouldn’t communicate it, the rest just gave circular answers that rarely if ever even touched on the question. The first straight answer I got was from a guy named Mike David. Pushing with him was like wrestling with a big squishy egg. I asked him about it and he told me he had problems with it for years until Katy Cheng showed him it was possible to relax and sink the tailbone without bending the knees! Practicing that as a seperate exercise proved to be a huge step forward for me. Indeed it became the foundation for everything else to come.

The second such answer wasn’t even to a question I had asked. Wujimon was kind enough to post his study notes to a Chen Practical Method® seminar. In his notes, he mentions the response to a question about neutralizing a push to the torso. This interested me keenly, because several people have figured out that the easiest way to move me was a direct push to my center. It always fustrated me, because I always thought that their hand on my center should have given me the advantage, yet off I went! The answer, BTW, was “sink the elbows”. Kind of vague, but still better then most of the circular speaking crystal-swingers. Once I ‘got it’ (I’m using the phrase loosely here), I could not only resist a push to my torso, but could turn it or return it. In fact, I believe that same quality (of feeling) should be maintained through out the form and to be sure, making it a point to do so has improved my form drastically. It’s funny with things like this. As I was marveling over the drastic improvement this ‘minor’ change brought, I began to wonder why my teacher never told me this. Then I realized that he had, on day one. It was probably the one thing he repeated the most short of ‘relax’. I guess it was just over my head at the time. Much like the command to ‘relax’, it will no doubt change in meaning everytime I come full-circle. So far, it’s helped drastically.

The third straight answer came the other day from Michael Phillips. Michael has numerous videos on youtube. Michael is also a frequent contributor to a yahoo group for taiji practitioners. Recent threads have been about the ‘Kai-men Jibengong’ or basic exercises. I wrote him and asked for help with my push. He was kind enough to take the time to write me back (a first in my experience). He outlined a ‘simple’ exercise for me to practice. I have been practicing for a couple of days and can already see results. I will describe it in detail in the future. I’m still trying to get my head around what exactly is going on when I do it. While that may never happen =) I’ll write about it in a week or two.

So, three cheers for martial artists who aren’t afraid to share!

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~ by aedhcarrick on November 23, 2009.

6 Responses to “Three Straight Answers”

  1. Greetings. Glad you enjoyed the Chen Practical Method workshop notes. To take things a step further, not only should the elbows be sunk down, but they should ALSO point to the dantien ALL THE TIME. This not only keeps your arms within the frame of your torso but also has a way of sinking the shoulder too! Give it a try!

    • Yes, thank you so much for publishing your study notes. I tried to thank you on your blog, but my compy has been acting up. Hence the erratic pace of my posting, oh well.
      Sinking the elbows is something I’ve heard over and over, but hearing it in context of a push to the torso made something click. I’ll have to play around to see what you mean about having the elbow point ‘in’. Thank you again for sharing.

      • Been playing around abit and I think I direct the elbows in naturally. Making a connection between the elbows and the tantian was something I worked on a lot years ago. If you could elaborate I’ll double check just to be sure.

  2. I can relate to your second point. As far as I can tell, my teacher holds absolutely nothing back and gives it all away. Those “secrets” seem so basic and fundamental that often I couldn’t believe they are “secrets”. Instead, I fantasize about the “true secrets” that will one day be revealed to me, somehow. But as time goes by, I begin to slowly understand what he has been saying for all along. I’ve come to realize that I needed time and training to get to a point where the teachings can start to make some sense to me. This is the “secret of no secret” as my teacher likes to put it. In other words, if you are not ready (mentally and physically), no amount of so called secrets will do you any good. But once you are, they will reveal themselves.

  3. aedh, when I say the elbows pointing in, I mean just that. Have the tips of the elbows point “in” towards your dantien. This actually splits your body into 2 triangles. Dantien and up (via arms/elbow path), and dantien and down (via kua/knee/ankle path). Play around with the relation of these 2 triangles and their impact on each other.

    Elbows “down” and elbows “in” are different. Most people’s elbows are down and out, not down and in. This could impact the connection of the elbow with the dantien.

    • Wow, that was a quick response! I believe I am doing just that. If I keep the elbows sunk, then as long as I maintain that triangle I’m golden. Though, prior to taiji, I had practiced wing chun and I had difficulties in learning to pushhands. I was holding the elbows in and this was creating ‘enough’ tension for my teacher to jack me repeatedly. What I’m doing now seems to work even if my elbows are over my head! I think the difference is in the relationship between those triangles and the ‘ancestoral tablet’. I’ll try playing with those triangles, thanks again.

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